Why Your Nintendo Controller Keeps Breaking

January 23, 2023

Like many people I bought a Nintendo Switch when it was released in 2017. A year or so after its release people started noticing that the joysticks on the Joy-Con controllers suffered from controller drift. After public backlash Nintendo started a free repair program: send in your joy-cons and they will replace the joysticks. I have done this and it works, but it is annoying to lose them for a couple weeks. Now a little known company has a solution.

Why It Matters

In a 2021 interview on its website Nintendo claimed they would never be able to solve joystick drift on its controllers. However SEGA solved joystick wear and drift in its controllers using something called Hall effect sensors in its Dreamcast console. This technology never caught on, but a company called GuliKit has recently developed a replacement you can put into your joy-cons.

Nintendo’s Avoidance of Hall Effect Joysticks is a Mystery

While the interview about the joy-cons was surprisingly transparent, Nintendo avoided addressing the use of this old technology. It is possible that it would infringe on patents or other intellectual property protections held by rival companies. Licensing it might cost more than is worthwhile for them. The components might be more expensive and cut into Nintendo’s margins. Finally there may have been other quality or engineering trade-offs in the versions Nintendo was able to produce and they decided the standard potentiometer joysticks were good enough.

These Joysticks are Better

  • No large dead zone in the middle of the joystick.
  • Functional lifespan is nearly a decade of heavy use.
  • Less drain on the joy-con batteries.

The Importance of Repairability

Repairing the Switch is not the easiest task, but having parts, tools, and instructions continues to be a valuable way to lengthen the life of a product like the Switch. My fan was dying and I was able to replace mine with one that goes 10% faster. Now I have the option to replace my joysticks with ones that can last long past when Nintendo is likely to repair them for free.

Want to get posts like this in your email?

This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.